Cunningham says Ansah and Taylor will be a devastating combo on the edges

Posted Oct 9, 2013

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham likes what he's seeing in the development of rookie fourth-round pick Devin Taylor after he was pressed into duty a couple weeks ago

There are some rookies who come into the NFL and are able to make an immediate impact.

The Lions have seen it first hand with Ziggy Ansah, Larry Warford and Sam Martin this season.

Then there are other rookies who might come into the league a little raw or might need a little seasoning or enter a situation where they’re behind a veteran player.

The latter was the case with Lions fourth-round pick Devin Taylor. A physically gifted defensive end at 6-foot-7 and 276 pounds, Taylor came into the NFL a little raw and had to learn how to use his size and his long arms to his advantage at this level and some of the other slight nuances of rushing the passer.

Lions coaches were afforded the opportunity to work with him at a steady pace and not throw too much on him too early with Ansah, Jason Jones, Willie Young and Israel Idonije all ahead of him on the depth chart and contributing on game day.

But it took just one misstep by Jones for all those plans to go out the window.

When Jones ruptured his patellar tendon in Washington and was lost for the season, Taylor had to flip the switch and become one of those rookies who could step in and contribute right away.

Devin TaylorDE Devin Taylor

"I guess it’s vital for me to develop as a player as quick as possible for this team," Taylor said this week.

The last two weeks, he’s done exactly that.

"When Jason Jones got hurt I was heart broken, because I have always liked Jason," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "I wanted to draft him but Tennessee beat me to the punch, so when we got him, I was really excited. When he got hurt I was really distraught."

Cunningham said he and defensive line coach Jim Washburn made an agreement on the plane ride home from Washington – almost out of necessity – that is was time to accelerate Taylor’s learning curve.

"(We) started working (defensive line coach) Kris (Kocurek)," Cunningham said. "We started working harder with (Taylor). He has had the ability.

"I can name you a hundred rookies where everybody says they are going to be All Pro and go into the Hall of Fame.

"I have had a lot of rookies start slow; two, three come to mind; Derrick Johnson, linebacker at Kansas City, Jared Allen, and Tamba Hali. I think you know all three of those. To me that is Devon Taylor, he is growing everyday. He is coming along and I have seen him make a couple good plays."

Taylor finished with two tackles in Green Bay last week and had a couple other nice pressures that flushed Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the pocket for incompletions.

"It’s good the coaches have faith in a player they drafted and see what I can do with more snaps as I get more comfortable in the defense," Taylor said.

When Taylor "figures it out" and puts it all together, Cunningham said he wants to be around to see Taylor and Ansah as bookends along that defensive front.

"That’s a lot of meat and I think he is going to be a good player, as is Ziggy," Cunningham said. "I cannot wait till they get going a little bit more."